June 27, 2012

Bus Departs When Full


Well this metaphor was bound to be made, considering this blog is written by three former UTS bus drivers.

Yesterday the Hoos picked up their 15th commitment for the class of 2013 when Toms River, New Jersey offensive lineman Brad Henson jumped on board. In a season which will most likely have a smaller class, one Wahooze expects to be around 18-20 kids, space is going fast. This class is extremely talented and more importantly deep. Spots are going to be very selective moving forward, which hopefully will mean commitments will continue to come down fast and furious, as they have over the last week. As a refresher here is the class so far:

Quarterbacks
3-star Brendan Marshall - Good Counsel
3-star Corwin Cutler - Ocean Lakes

Running Backs

Wide Receivers
3-star Andre Levrone - Good Counsel 
3-star Zack Jones- Oscar Smith
3-star Keeon Johnson - A.L. Brown (North Carolina)


Tight Ends

Offensive Line
3-star Sadiq Olanrewaju - Salisbury (Connecticut)
3-star Jack McDonald - Boston Collegiate Charter School (Massachusetts)
3-star Brad Henson - Monsignor Donovan (New Jersey)

Defensive Ends
2-star Jack English - St. Christopher's

Defensive Tackles
4-star Donta Wilkins - Potomac

Linebackers
4-star Micah Kiser - Gilman School
3-star LaChaston Smith - South Iredell (North Carolina)

Defensive Backs
4-star Tim Harris - Varina
3-star Hipolito Corporan - Westside (Texas)
4-star Kirk Garner - Good Counsel

Again, that's 15 commitments, which leaves three to five open spots in the class. Let's take a look at who the staff is targeting...

Riding Shotgun - These players have a spot on the bus regardless of how full it gets
  • Taquan " Smoke" Mizzell (RB) - Talk about stock blowing up. Smoke is destroying the camp circuit of late, leading some to speculate he could reach 5-star status by the time all is said and done. Long considered a heavy UVA lean, Mizzell is also hearing a lot from the West Virginia Mountaineers. While we shouldn't be too concerned, that high powered offense is something that has to get his attention. If the short scholarship situation leads to earlier commits, it will benefit us more with Smoke than anyone else.
  • Wyatt Teller
  • Wyatt Teller (DE) - Some (myself included) see a lot of Chris Long in Wyatt Teller. That's extrememly high praise for a kid just entering his senior year in high school. At 6-5, 255 and growing, Teller already looks the part of a big time DE at the next level. He has game-changing abilities on the pass rush, and paired with Eli Harold and Mike Moore from the Class of 2012, could be terrifying.
  • Oren Burks (LB) - UVA lost two of its top LB prospects when Larenz Bryant committed to South Carolina, and Peter Kalambayi committed to Stanford. This makes Burks even more of a priority than he was previously. This however is not just based on necessity. Burks has a ton of talent and is consistently underrated in our opinion. UVA has been built on under the radar guys, and Burks is no exception.

Behind the Yellow Line - These players will be able to get on the bus, assuming there are seats remaining
  • Tevin Montgomery (DT) - UVA got a huge commitment from Donta Wilkins, but he is not the only good DT prospect in this class that is considering the Hoos. Tevin Montgomery is a 3-star DT out of Massachusetts. At 6-5, 295, he is already built to fit the part. Paired with Wilkins, Montgomery could anchor what could shape up to be an incredibly deep and talented defensive line, which could get even stronger in 2014 when some of the in-state studs in that class join the team.
  • DaeSean Hamilton
    DaeSean Hamilton (WR) - UVA has already signed a ton of receivers in the past two classes, but Hamilton will have a spot on this team regardless. At 6-1, 185 he is a solid prospect physically, and has the abilities to play both sides of the ball. That versatility is what is going to earn him his spot on the bus. Hamilton appears to be taking his time with his visits, but as the bus fills that could move him to make a quicker decision.

Standing Room Only - These players will need some help to get on the bus
  • Josh Marriner
    Josh Marriner (RB) - The staff likes Marriner a lot. And if this was not such a stocked backfield already, Marriner would be just the back to bring in to help build depth at a position. But (brace yourselves) UVA might already have too many top talents at running back, and thus no space for Marriner. At this point we are in a "top prospect only" mode. (Man, I need a moment to let that sink in.)
  • Mike Tyson (LB/SS) - Iron Mike was a prospect in the class of 2012, but had some issues qualifying academically due to his lack of credits. He is spending a prep year at Hargrave and could be poised to make a run at a D1 scholarship. Tyson will grow into a solid weakside linebacker, at this point it could come down to a number crunch at UVA.
  •  Demetri McGill (DT) - McGill has always been a favorite of mine. He's completely enamored with Coach London. This is again another example of how the depth has improved at UVA. Normally McGill would be a player the staff would jump at, but this is a different UVA, one where only the top-of-the-board prospects have commitable offers.

Exit Through the Back Doors  - These players are currently committed elsewhere, but we think could waver on that... in any case, they are currently off the bus
Doug Randolph
  • Doug Randolph ( LB) - Randolph is currently committed to Stanford, sort of. He is considering Stanford, UVA, and Notre Dame. Benefits for the Hoos? Randolph plays at Woodberry Forest, about 30 minutes north of Charlottesville. Of all the players we could flip, we have the most confidence in our ability to lure Randolph, who would plug a huge hole at linebacker.
  • Maurice Hurst Jr. (DT) - Hurst broke Wahoo fans hearts when he was swept up by Michigan. He seems pretty firm on the Michigan bus, but a commitment from friend Tevin Montgomery, to go along with the recent commitment from Jack McDonald, could just swing it back into UVA's favor.
  • Peter Kalambayi (LB) - Have I mentioned that we hate Stanford yet? Kalambayi is also committed to the Cardinal. Distance is going to be the biggest factor that plays in our favor with both Kalambayi and Randolph. If UVA can flip one of them to the good guys we will be set at linebacker for the recruiting cycle.

June 26, 2012

Welcome Back, Sully!

To members of the University community:

What follows is the press release announcing the Board's reinstatement of President Sullivan this afternoon at its 3 p.m. meeting.



U.Va. Board of Visitors Reinstates Sullivan as President

June 26, 2012 - The University of Virginia Board of Visitors today acted to reinstate Teresa A. Sullivan as president of the University.

"The past two weeks have been trying for all of us in the University community," Sullivan said. "While this period of uncertainty has been difficult, I believe that those with opposing viewpoints have been well-intentioned, acting only with the best interests of the University in mind."

"While many believe that the past two weeks have threatened our great institution, I believe that we have been strengthened by the experience. It has, in fact, propelled our academic community to a new place and made it ready to face a quickened pace of change.

"My goal is to harness the enthusiasm that has been generated and use it to the University's competitive advantage."

The board's decision follows 16 days of vigorous dialogue about the future of the University, which was sparked by the announcement on June 10 that Rector Helen E. Dragas and other board members had asked for Sullivan's resignation.

The resolution reinstating Sullivan reads as follows:

"The Board of Visitors rescinds the Second Amendment to the President's Employment Agreement, subject to the approval and acceptance of the President, thereby reinstating the President's initial Employment Agreement of January 11, 2010, as amended by the First Amendment to the Employment Agreement; and further

"The Board of Visitors rescinds the naming of Carl P. Zeithaml as Interim President of the University, and rescinds the authority previously granted to the Executive Committee to negotiate and execute a contract or employment agreement with the Interim President."

Sullivan called on the University community to work together to craft solutions to the challenges facing U.Va. and higher education and to quickly move beyond philosophical differences that have emerged.

"I pledge to set aside any differences we might have, and to work hand-in-hand with Rector Dragas and all members of the Board of Visitors as we face the challenges that have been articulated - and find solutions that will further distinguish the University," Sullivan said.

Board of Visitors member and former Rector Heywood Fralin said the university is "united unlike ever before in my memory."

"The University community has been solid in its support of President Sullivan and has clearly communicated that to the rest of the state, the nation, and the world. Today, the board has made the right decision in reinstating President Sullivan," Fralin said.

"Speaking for myself, but probably with the agreement of every member of this Board of Visitors, I would like to thank the many students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who have demonstrated their strong opinions and concerns for the University of Virginia during this tumultuous time. You deeply love this University and want it to remain one of the world's top institutions. The University community ¬- working together - will make this happen."

Sullivan said she was eager to resume her job, including working with the board, faculty, administration, staff and students to fully develop and implement strategic plans to ensure the University's future.

"Today begins a new day at the University of Virginia, one in which we set aside any hurts that have been inflicted, build on the collaborative bonds that have been formed, and move as one. All eyes are on us; we must show the world that we are strong, but also forgiving, and that we live by the values of honor and integrity and civility," Sullivan said.

She also thanked those who provided support and encouraged her reinstatement.

"The support has been overwhelming and deeply touching," she said. "I will do all in my power not to disappoint."

She expressed particular gratitude to Carl P. Zeithaml, dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, who initially agreed to assume the role of interim president but later suspended that appointment to provide time for further discussion and to allow the Board of Visitors to resolve Sullivan's status.

"Carl has always been a devoted citizen of our community and his actions of the past week speak to that commitment," she said.

In January 2010, Sullivan was unanimously elected by the Board Visitors to become U.Va.'s eighth president - and its first woman president. She succeeded John T. Casteen III, who served as University president for 20 years.

She began her term on Aug. 1, 2010, after serving as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan. Her role there included serving as chief budget officer, overseeing $1.5 billion of Michigan's $5.4 billion annual budget.

Prior to Michigan, Sullivan spent 27 years at the University of Texas at Austin, were her roles included executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for the university's system.

At U.Va. Sullivan has worked to build rapport with the University community and beyond. Major initiatives of her presidency have included the introduction and early phase implementation of a new financial model designed to increase the University's efficiency, development of a fiscal year 2013 budget that holds tuition increases to their lowest level in a decade, and a trip to East and Southeast Asia to build partnerships and raise the University's global profile.

Sullivan also has worked with the leadership of the U.Va. Health System to begin a strategic review of the fast-growing medical center and to advance efforts to rapidly commercialize the University's intellectual property and inventions.


Official communication to the University community approved distribution of this message.



Kendall's Take:  This being a sports blog, I really didn't want to touch this issue.  That being said, I predicted this outcome over a week ago via Twitter...

Dragas will be gone, BOV will be restructured, Sully will return, UVA will be stronger than ever, and our enemies will cower before the might of the Wahoo Collective.

Not trying to toot my own horn, I just knew the University would self-correct in short order.  The good part about all of this is that it woke up a sense of survival that maybe UVA lacked prior to the shake-up.  Also, this kind of thing tends to end donor apathy.  So it's all good in the hood.

I'm glad Sully's back.  From a Wahooze perspective, I'm especially glad she's back because she's a very football-friendly president, and we need that as we plunge head-first into the potential ACCpocalypse.

GO HOOS!



COME AT ME BRO

BOV Meeting, Live Streaming...

...HERE.







June 25, 2012

NBA Mock Draft

Aloha!

I'm back from my mini-sabbatical, looking around at the wasteland of another UVA sports offseason (Virginia Football training camp starts in August!), and not wanting to touch the radioactive Sullivan / BOV mess with a 10-foot pole.

So what's on my mind right now?

Weirdly, it's Thursday's NBA Draft.

WHAAATTTT???

Yeah, that's right, the NBA.



Four reasons I'm interested in what everyone else seems to think is a bombed-out zombie apocalypse of a professional sports league:

1) I found myself not just watching, but enjoying the playoffs this year.  I'm not really a Heat-hater, so it was kinda cool to see the best basketball player I've ever seen - LeBron James, who just took over the top spot from Michael Jordan in my opinion - win his first title.  But not only that, it was youth being served in OKC, it was the battle the Pacers gave Miami, it was the 8-seed upset pulled off by Philly, it was the old man Celtics making a nice run (love KG and Jesus Shuttlesworth), it was the collapse of my most hated NBA team (Lakers), and it was the dawn of good basketball in a lot of places that haven't seen it in a while -- Indiana, New York, Philly, Clippers.  I know the playoffs are usually good, but for some reason this year's were just really fun to watch.  Maybe it was all of the young talent maturing on the biggest stage.  I like that kind of stuff.

2) Mike Scott is about to get drafted.  He's one of my favorite UVA players of the last two decades, and he'll be the first since Roger Mason (whom I never really forgave for stupidly leaving Virginia early) to suit up in the NBA after starring for the Hoos.  Can't wait to follow Mike's career.  Even more exciting, I think he is just the start of a steady flowing pipeline of UVA players into the Association.  Joe Harris will be drafted, and my money is also on Justin Anderson, Evan Nolte, and Anthony Gill playing in the NBA at some point, as well.  As our basketball program ascends, the professional talent we produce will also be on the uptick.

3) I have it on pretty good authority that there's a better-than-zero chance that the Norfolk / Hampton Roads area will be getting an NBA franchise at some point in the next decade; this will be the state of Virginia's first top-level professional sports franchise since the Virginia Squires left Norfolk in '76.  So I'm hellbent on developing into an NBA fan in preparation for a state team.



4) I have not one, not two, but three dogs in the fight, all with lottery picks in this year's draft:

  1. The team I followed as a kid through their rise and eventual collapse in the 2000's, the Sacramento Kings.  Still the best team ball I've ever seen, that Webber / Divac / Bibby / Jackson / Christie / Stojakovic core.
  2. The hometown(ish) Washington Wizards.
  3. The team that my wife and I decided to follow together as a fun couple's activity, the Milwaukee Bucks.  FEAR THE DEER.


So with that, and with you knowing that I know my business when it comes to college basketball, I present to you my 2012 NBA Mock Draft.  I hope you enjoy it!



#1 New Orleans Hornets -- Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky
Totally obvious, lock it in and throw away the key.  But I've got some things to say here: 1) Can Tom Benson please, PLEASE throw some cash at Salt Lake City and buy back the name "Jazz?"  New Orleans Hornets sounds stupid, but Utah Jazz makes me want to pull out my last few surviving hairs.  2) Speaking of hairs... you already know what I'm going to say here... Anthony Davis, I know it's your calling card or whatever, but that unibrow is just totally ridiculous and distracting.  Please shave a divider.  Please.  3) I think Davis is going to be a modest bust in the NBA.  I don't think his game translates particularly well to the professional level, and I don't think he'll have enough of a supporting cast in Charl... er... New Orleans.  I'm predicting an Emeka Okafor type of career.  Not bad, but nothing special.  There it is, I think Anthony Dais will be a bust.  [Really, I wanted to make this post just so I could get that on record.]
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BUST



#2 Charlotte Bobcats -- Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
I actually think the Bobcats trade this pick, most likely to the Cavaliers, who can package the #4 and #24 picks to move up and build a nice backcourt with Beal and Kyrie Irving.  In any case, through the recent pre-draft process, Beal has emerged as the second-best prospect in this draft.  Pencil him in at #2 overall and move on.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST

#3 Washington Wizards -- Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
With the trade to acquire Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the Wiz added two more building blocks to the Nene / Vesely / Seraphin / Trevor Booker / Chris Singleton frontcourt, and suddenly DC seems to have some functional players up front, and some guys who should be offer some very good defensive efforts.  What the Wiz really needs to add to this mix is a shooting guard to play alongside John Wall... but with Beal off the board the pick is another weapon for the frontcourt in DC native Thomas Robinson.  T-Rob is the kind of mature two-way player who can stabilize this roster with leadership and the appropriate intangibles.  Things are getting crowded in this frontcourt, but that's how you win in the NBA - with bigs and wings.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST

#4 Cleveland Cavaliers -- Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
I'm not a huge Harrison Barnes fan, and I think he'll only have a so-so professional career.  Perfect pick for the Cavs, another draft bust that they fell in love with pre-draft for no good reason.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BUST

#5 Sacramento Kings -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
He's got a low ceiling, but I like MKG as a player.  John Salmons and Francisco Garcia have played musical chairs at the small forward position for the last few seasons, so the pick makes sense.  I just think MKG is more of a glue guy and a defender than he is a legit star, so #5 feels too high.  But the Kings definitely need an influx of toughness, grit, and intangibles, and a guy who can make a positive impact on games without the ball in his hands would be nice to add to the mix.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST

#6 Portland Trailblazers -- Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
Lillard has been a fast riser, and I think that rise peaks at #6 overall.  The Blazers need a point guard and a big man from this draft, and Lillard is a more exciting talent than Andre Drummond or Meyers Leonard at this spot.  Besides, one of those two guys or Tyler Zeller will slide to their second pick at #11.  Lillard will not.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST



#7 Golden State Warriors -- Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
Here's the shocking reach in the lottery picks.  The Warriors desperately need an athletic wing to add to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and Jerry West makes draft picks based on his own personal convictions.  I actually like Ross a lot at this pick; I think his skill set and athleticism will make him a better pro player than what we saw from him in college.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST

#8 Toronto Raptors -- Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
Ugh, the Raptors.  God, what a crap team.  Waiters is one of my favorite players in this draft, but Toronto has to pick someone, and they need a player who can attack the basket.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#9 Detroit Pistons -- John Henson, PF, North Carolina
For the Pistons, the task at hand is to build a team around Greg Monroe.  I think Henson is a total punk, but he is an athletic post presence who would form a nice compliment to Monroe.  The question is if Detroit wants to go with size and scoring or with defense and athleticism.  Andre Drummond or Meyers Leonard is the choice for the bigger "twin towers" look, but Henson's ability level is a bit more rare.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#10 New Orleans Hornets -- Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
Who to pair with Anthony Davis?  Makes sense to go with a guard who can score, and Rivers fits the bill.  I personally think the guy is cocky to the point of fault, but pro scouts see that swagger as confidence and view it as a plus.  I'm already on record in saying I think Davis will be a bust, and I feel the same way about Austin Rivers.  If the draft plays out like this and I am correct about the busting, then this will be disastrous for the Hornets franchise.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BUST

#11 Portland Trailblazers -- Andre Drummond, C, UConn
Drummond slides, and still needing a big, the Blazers pounce.  I'm not sure how good Drummond is, or how much better he might get, but he's supposedly a legit pro prospect with his size (7-0, 280) and athleticism.  He's the kind of raw big man that has been getting NBA general mangers fired since the beginning of time.  Olowokandi, anyone?
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BUST

#12 Milwaukee Bucks -- Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
The Bucks get their replacement for Andrew Bogut.  I actually like the way this team is building -- Brandon Jennings is a legit star, and the pieces are coming together around him.  Landing Ekpe Udoh in that Bogut trade was a master stroke for Milwaukee.  I love the Nightmare, and I think he can develop into an Ibaka-type defensive presence.  Leonard offers a nice compliment to what's already in place in that frontcourt.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#13 Phoenix Suns -- Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn
The Suns need an explosive, dynamic scoring guard.  Lamb was certainly explosive and dynamic in college, but I'm not sure he's not just "another guy" at the NBA level.  #13 is probably too low to land a real difference-making scoring guard in this particular draft, unless you want a sweet shooter like Vanderbilt's John Jenkins.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BUST

#14 Houston Rockets -- Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
The Rockets are desperate for bigs, and Zeller - while completely unsexy - is a sound option.  A ho-hum pick that should help the team.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#15 Philadelphia 76ers -- Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
The Sixers don't have any big men under contract beyond next year, and they could really use reinforcements in the frontcourt.  They were at their best in the playoffs when Spence Hawes was knocking down mid-range shots, and that's Moultrie's specialty.  He's like a bigger, better-rebounding Mike Scott.  This pick might be a slight reach, but it's a great fit for Philly.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST



#16 Houston Rockets -- Perry Jones, PF, Baylor
Zeller was the safe pick -- low ceiling, high floor.  Coupling him with the roll-the-dice pick of Perry Jones could be a savvy move for the Rockets as they try to rebuild their frontcourt.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BUST

#17 Dallas Mavericks -- Royce White, SF, Iowa State
Call this a hunch.  Jason Kidd 2.0 in Kendall Marshall would be a good conventional wisdom pick, as would somewhat-safe big man Terrence Jones.  I just think White's unique package -- a big-bodied 6-8, 265-pound "point forward," jives well with this weird mix the Mavs have brewed up.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST

#18 Minnesota Timberwolves -- Will Barton, SG, Memphis
The T-Wolves need scorers at the shooting guard position, and Barton (a popular draft sleeper) is pretty explosive, with a really diverse skill set.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#19 Orlando Magic -- Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
The thing that strikes me about this exercise is that so many teams in the NBA are just a total mess right now.  The Magic chief among those teams, even though they made the playoffs this season.  Essentially, they just need to build assets in preparation for life with a Dwight Howard-sized hole blasted through their roster.  So it's best player available for the Magic, which is the draft-sliding Terrence Jones (Kendall Marshall is just too redundant to what they already have in Jameer Nelson.)
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#20 Denver Nuggets -- Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
Obviously, Ty Lawson is the starter for the Nugs, but Marshall would be a nice guy to bring off the bench and possibly develop into a tradeable asset.  I personally think his total and complete inability to shoot will doom Marshall's pro career, but he won't slide past pick #20 in this draft.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BUST

#21 Boston Celtics -- Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure
Time for a youth movement.  The Celtics need this pick to be good and stick on the roster, and bonus points if the pick helps fill the massive void they have in the frontcourt, with KG and Brandon Bass both free agents.  I've personally never seen Nicholson play other than in the NCAA Tournament, where he was freaking awesome in a 3-point loss to Florida State.  He's a fast-riser in the pre-draft process.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST

#22 Boston Celtics -- Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
He has a bad back, but it's risk vs. reward at this point, and the C's have a steal if Sullinger is healthy.  But we've seen this before when Sullinger was named Marcus Fizer.  There's just not a place in the league for below-the-rim bigs.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BUST



#23 Atlanta Hawks -- Tony Wroten Jr., PG, Washington
He's a bit wild and erratic, but as a big point guard, I think he has an NBA future.  He might be a career reserve, but Wroten will stick.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#24 Cleveland Cavaliers -- Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
With Barnes already in tow, the Cavs add the risky pick of Fab Melo to the witch's cauldron.  If he stays focused and develops, he could be one of the top 5 or 6 players from this draft, and Cleveland certainly needs to gamble on talent at this point.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BUST

#25 Memphis Grizzlies -- Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
Backup point guard behind Mike Conley.  No more, no less.  Sometimes it's just that simple.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#26 Indiana Pacers -- Mo Harkless, SF, St. John's
Incredible slide for Harkless, incredible value pick at a position of need for the Pacers.  This exciting young team gets even better.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST

#27 Miami Heat -- John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
Easy enough: Surround LeBron with shooters, win championships.  Most draftniks have Jenkins going in the second round, but he is one of the best pure shooters I have ever seen.  I think he sneaks into the end of the first round, and makes an impact as the Heat surge toward title #2 next season.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BEAST



#28 Oklahoma City Thunder -- Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
Back-to-back Vandy picks.  Taylor gives OKC another defensive stopper and a backup for Kevin Durant who can come off the bench and score.  Nice role-playing reserve with some decent upside.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#29 Chicago Bulls -- Draymond Green, PF, Michigan State
The Bulls - built around the tiny and fragile Derrick Rose - will never win a title (ask Allen Iverson's Sixers).  They are stuck adding bit parts and role players, hoping to find lightning in a bottle while they slowly come to grips with the reality that they need to blow it up and start over.  Draymond Green is a very versatile player who can add some scoring oompf to this team.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP

#30 Golden State Warriors -- Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
Big frame, not a lot of upside, but could have a nice career as a backup 5.
Beast, Bust, or Backup: BACKUP


But what about Mike Scott???
He goes #35 overall to the Warriors and has a better NBA career than ten of the 30 guys picked in the first round -- Ezeli, Teague, Melo, Wroten, Sullinger, Marshall, Perry Jones, Lamb, Drummond, and Rivers.




BEAST

June 12, 2012

Virginia Baseball 2013, Part III -- Rosterbations and Expectations

Mike and I are trying out a co-writing technique for this post.  What you see here is my words, but with him sitting behind me offering his thoughts as we go along.  So it's a true team effort.

Anyway, pass the lotion, it's time for some hardcore rosterbation!



In the Field:
C - Nate Irving / Scott Williams / Robbie Coman
1B - Jared King
2B - Reed Gragnani
SS - Branden Cogswell
3B - Nick Howard / George Ragsdale
LF - Derek Fisher
CF - Brandon Downes / Mitchell Shifflett
RF - Colin Harrington

Notes:

  • King, Fisher, and Harrington are locked into their spots at 1st base, left field, and right field, respectively.
  • Nate Irving will catch Friday nights and Saturdays, but don't be surprised to see one of the hotshot freshman catchers (Scott Williams or Robbie Coman) start on Sundays, to help save Irving's legs, especially when the Saturday games are later in the day -- day game after night game is a tough turnaround for a catcher.  Also, this is the way you develop understudy catchers, by giving them semi-regular playing time.  (Think backup quarterback playing mop-up duty.)
  • There is some debate about where Reed Gragnani will end up, but most tea leaves suggest that he's Keith Werman's replacement at 2nd base.  Expect a slight drop-off defensively at that position, though Grags' 6-foot frame is better suited to handle those line drives.
  • Branden Cogswell was specifically recruited to take over the shortstop position in 2013, so here we go.  Let's see what he's got as an everyday starter.
  • Nick Howard has 3rd base written all over him.  Not sure if he'll still be used as a relief pitcher, but if he is, look for true freshman George Ragsdale to see some occasional action at 3rd base.  Or maybe we'll see Downes at 2nd with Grags at 3rd and Shifflett in CF.
  • Downes took over center field duties late in the 2012 season, but Mitchell Shifflett was still a regular 9th inning defensive replacement and/or pinch runner.  His speed and defense are still great assets... but the kid cannot hit.  If he picks up a Werm-style ability to battle onto base, then it could be a real game-changer.  But for now, expect Downes' more competent bat to win the starting job in center.



Batting Order:
1 - Downes
2 - Gragnani
3 - Fisher
4 - King
5 - Howard
6 - Harrington
7 - Mike Papi (DH) / Kenny Towns (DH) / George Ragsdale (DH)
8 - Irving
9 - Cogswell

Notes:

  • Big debate about the leadoff spot.  Ultimately, we went with Downes here, because he has displayed a better bat than Cogswell to this point.  Also, Downes has been more successful on the basepaths.  So Downes leads off, with Cogswell batting 9th, aka, the "2nd leadoff" spot.  But those two could be interchangeable.
  • Grags bats in the 2-hole because he's a switch hitter and a high on-base guy.  You want someone who can hit left-handed batting second, to take advantage of the hole created when the leadoff man is on 1st.
  • The meat of the order looks great here.  3 thru 6 really has a lot of offensive potential.  This lineup offers punch like we had in 2011, with Proscia, Hicks, Hultzen, and King in the middle of the order.
  • Designated hitter is a total wildcard.  Irving should DH on Sundays if he's not catching.  This is also Mike Papi's best chance to salvage his UVA career after living in the O'Connor doghouse as a freshman due to a lack of hustle.  Towns is a very competent hitter, but lacks the defensive juice to beat out anyone in the field.  Finally, Ragsdale DHing is just a hunch.  I think Oak will have a hard time keeping the kid's live bat out of the order on occasion.  Anyway, lots of good options here, not just for DHing, but also for pinch hitting.



Rotation:
Fri - Nathan Kirby (LHP)
Sat - Artie Lewicki (RHP)
Sun - Kyle Crockett (LHP)
Midweek - Brett Lisle (LHP)

Notes:

  • Artie Lewicki will start the season as the Friday night starter, but it's our best guess that Kirby takes that spot like Danny Hultzen did in 2009.  Can't stress this enough: Kirby projects as a staff ace, sooner rather than later.
  • Lewicki is our only veteran starter, so look for him to settle in as the Saturday starter, just like he settled in as the Sunday starter in 2011.  At his best, he's a Will Roberts-style innings-eater.
  • O'Connor and Coach Kuhn have resisted the urge to start Kyle Crockett, but that temptation might just be too great in 2013.  If Crockett can handle extended innings (like he did in Omaha in 2010), then he's a plus-plus-plus Sunday starter, maybe the best #3 starter in the ACC.
  • Brett Lisle has developed a bit of folk hero acclaim in practice this season.  The hulking (6-foot-9) lefty has slowly begun to locate his pitches, which makes him a great candidate to either start, earn a starring role in the bullpen, or even close games in 2013.  I just like the idea of putting a 6-9 guy on the mound against the types of teams we'll face midweek -- William & Mary, Liberty, JMU, Marist, VMI, Towson, George Washington, VCU, Richmond, Radford, etc., etc., etc.  Talk about intimidation.  Anyway, for a guy who's been in the program for a year already but has yet to see action, listing him as the midweek starter may be a reach.  But the word is that Lisle has really picked it up as the season has gone along.  I see a career similar to FSU's Hunter Scantling (a 6-8, 270 behemoth), where he starts out dabbling as a midweek starter before emerging as an impact weekend pitcher later in his career.
  • We don't list Whit Mayberry here because he's trying to return from Tommy John surgety, usually a 1.5-year process.  If he were healthy, he'd be a lock to start at some point during the weekends.







Bullpen:

LHP - Ryan Ashooh / Aaron Stull / Nathaniel Abel / B. Waddell / D. Rosenberger
RHP - Austin Young / Barrett O'Neill / Tyler Carrico / Trey Oest / Cameron Tekker
Long Relief - Joel Effertz (RHP) / Scott Silverstein (LHP)
Closer - Josh Sborz

Notes:

  • The bullpen is - by far - the most difficult area to project.  That said, I think we know we'll see a lot of young talent battling for roles in 2013.  Many of these players are guys we've never seen before, or have only seen in very limited action -- Ashooh only pitched 1.2 innings in 2012, and Abel pitched 5.1 innings.  Stull didn't pitch at all.  Waddell, Rosenberger, Carrico, Oest, and Tekker are incoming freshmen.  Austin Young pitched the most of this group, with 33.1 innings (including a nice 2-inning run against Army in the Charlottesville Regional), and inspires the most confidence.  Barrett O'Neill pitched 20.2 innings, but was mostly shaky, with a 5.23 ERA.  Bottom line, we have a whole lot of question marks and not many exclamation points in the 'pen.
  • We are projecting Joel Effertz to long relief, the premise being that you throw your 5th-best starter in that role in an attempt to eat innings in a mostly hopeless situation.
  • If Scott Silverstein is back, a big IF, then we're projecting him to compete with Effertz for the long relief role.  Two reasons for that: 1) The nature of his creaky arm demands he pitch after he warms up, and prevents him from participating in the cycle of warming up and cooling down numerous times like a true relief pitcher would need to do.  2) He won't be a starter in 2013.  He just doesn't have it in his arm, unfortunately.  So what we're left with here is a role player without many options for roles to fill.
  • Naming Josh Sborz as the closer is a bold prediction on our part.  Crockett, Young, or Lisle could just as easily take that crucial role.  We just see Sborz as having too much ability -- really good stuff but only two developed "out" pitches.  Think of Branden Kline's sophomore season.  Think of a harder-throwing Shane Halley.  Sborz has the goods, he just doesn't have the polished repertoire of pitches necessary to be a starter and go multiple innings.  But honestly, that picture of him with the eye black is what inspired us to name him the closer for 2013.  92 mph, curve, change -- that's closer stuff, and Sborz brings it to the table as a true freshman.






Fall 2012 Position Battles:
SS - Cogswell vs. Towns
CF - Downes vs. Shifflett
DH - Papi vs. Towns vs. Ragsdale
Friday Starter - Lewicki vs. Kirby
Sunday Starter - Crockett vs. Lisle vs. Sborz vs. Silverstein vs. Effertz vs. O'Neill
Closer - Young vs. Sborz



Expectations:
Our expectations for the offense in 2013 are fairly lofty.  We have a lot of guys who can run, slap hit to gaps, bang out a lot of doubles, and spark a lot of multi-run rallies.  There's not a lot of home run type power beyond Fisher and King, but everyone in the order should realistically be able to maintain averages above .300 and drive in a bunch of runs with power to the walls.  Think doubles and runs, not necessarily home runs and grand slams.  That said, this also is not a team that will require smallball and Werman-style bullshit to manufacture runs with bunts and putting pressure on opposing fielders.  We'll still be aggressive on the basepaths, especially in hit and run situations, which is part of the DNA of Brian O'Connor Baseball.  Scoring runs shouldn't be a problem, and it should happen in spurts in 2013.

In the field, UVA under O'Connor has always sparkled.  2013 should be no different, though we will likely see some flubs from the reconfigured infield.  Going from Werm to Grags at 2nd base is a net loss of defense.  Nick Howard and Branden Cogswell will need to get their dicks wet and quickly adjust to the influx of playing time and the associated pressure.  Nate Irving playing in his second season as a starter is a boon not to be underestimated.  He'll be a better backstop, and he'll be better able to manage the pitching staff.  In all, expect more of the same good-to-quite-good defense for the Hoos in 2013.

Mike equates the 2013 pitching staff to the 2012 football secondary.  There's a ton of talent, but it's mostly young, and you have no idea how it will perform.  Also, there could be problems with depth.  Who knows how the bullpen will shake out?  Who knows if we can count on these freshmen that have been hand-picked to rebuild this staff?  In the end, we just have to trust Coach Oak and Coach K's ability to massage the best performance possible from this staff.  If the 2012 staff was able to pitch us to 39 wins, the 2013 staff should be able to earn 40+ wins, as top to bottom, it is a deeper, more talented unit.

Overall, we are expecting lots and lots of success in 2013.  Maybe more games that we win 6-3 or 7-5, instead of those 2-1 nailbiters.  We'll have to win some slugfests and shootouts, especially early, as the pitching staff and rebuilt infield settles in.



GO HOOS!

June 11, 2012

Virginia Baseball 2013, Part II -- Hello, Nice to Meet You



In Part I, we took a look at the players leaving the baseball program and what we were losing with each one of those departures.  Now, in Part II, we'll take a look at the incoming freshmen, always a fun exercise with Coach O'Connor's atomic flexnuts recruiting.

As far as I know, none of these guys were drafted, so ALL of them should be on a trajectory to join the team later this summer.  All blue quotes are from Perfect Game, other quotes have sources noted.


Nathan Kirby, LHP -- 6-1, 180 / L-L / James River HS, Midlothian VA:
"Lean athletic build, room to get stronger, good projection. Fast paced delivery with some effort, long loose extended arm action, extended 3/4's release, very fast arm coming through, falls off on release affecting command. 88-91 mph fastball, sat at 91 mph early, big running life on fastball, gets on hitters quickly. Outstanding hard spin and bite on curveball, big hard break at times, slider velocity but knucklecurve grip, can be nasty when everything is right. Rare change up. Movement on fastball and size of curveball are hard to command. Very difficult to hit when in the zone. High level arm."

Mike Sez: "Running" in this sense refers to the lateral movement of Kirby's Fastball. His 3/4 delivery is responsible for this. The cutting action through the ball generates enough spin to run the ball away from righties. Tough to master, but can be deadly. To put it in perspective, every inch a fastball moves adds 1-2 miles per hour from the hitters view. Based strictly on this Perfect Game write-up from after his junior season, Kirby has stud written all over him. James River is always good, so mining them for talent is a good plan for UVA.

Washington-Lee HS Coach Doug Grove Sez: UVA has reloaded their pitching staff. I saw Nathan Kirby pitch last week. He is unreal. Lefty throws 92-93 mph, with a slider, change.

From Baseball Prospect Nation: "As has been widely reported over the last week, James River High School lefty Nathan Kirby’s name will not be in the mix for the draft this year. After months of telling teams he had no intention of signing, Kirby went an extra step and refused to participate in MLB’s medical and drug screening programs that are required of all potential top draft picks.

Kirby had been refusing in-home visits from scouts and other MLB team officials and there were rumors swirling of bonus demands in excess of mid-first round money.

Though many scouts consider Kirby one of the better left-handed pitchers in this year’s high school class, he doesn’t match up with the overall potential of guys like Max Fried and Matt Smoral. “He’s not a premium athlete and it’s not as free and easy as it was last year,” said an AL scout. “You have to know you’re getting a high school reliever right out of the gate.”

Kirby may ultimately get his multi-million dollar bonus if he can head off to the University of Virginia and improve his draft stock. With a fastball that sits at 88-91 mph and a potential plus-plus hammer curveball, he has the building blocks to be an outstanding college pitcher and could be in consideration of the upper half of the first round in three years."

College baseball scouting guru John Lezzi Sez: "LHP, 91-93 MPH, 80 MPH curve, devastating slider, also throws a change-up that is developing. Great movement on his fast ball. Throws from a 3/4 arm slot. Overpowers hitters. Sometimes struggles with his accuracy but that actually helps him. Pitched fantastically in Jupiter, Florida this past fall and blew up on the scouting radar. Had the potential to be a top 1-3 round draft pick. Was a preseason 3rd team all-American on Baseball America and is rated the #63 player on PerfectGame. He is the power arm you guys are looking for, he will battle for a weekend rotation spot right away.

Kendall Sez: Everyone I talk to about this believes that Nathan Kirby is our next Danny Hultzen.  Point blank.  I think it's important to note that this kid was going to be an early draft pick coming out of high school, as in, drafted about the same time as Branden Kline, but without the three years of college seasoning.  I think Kirby will follow Hultzen's career path at UVA: light it up in his first career start on a Saturday, then replace the veteran incumbent (Artie Lewicki to Hultzen's Andrew Carraway) as the Friday night starter for the rest of the season.  Nathan Kirby has the potential to be our staff ace, as a true freshman.  We should all be thanking our lucky stars he decided to forego the MLB draft and come to UVA.


Josh Sborz
Josh Sborz, RHP -- 6-2, 200 / R-R / McLean HS, McLean VA:
"Sborz has a big strong build, ball comes out of hand well, fastball has good life, attacks hitters, good 11-5 curveball, has good bite, projects well, high follow on the mound. Also showed good power potential at the plate, hits to all fields, good hitting tools."

From Orioles Nation: "Josh Sborz - brother to former Tigers righthander Jay - is a big strong pitcher with a fast arm. Fastball sits 90-92 with more velocity to come. The pitch has good present life, and he commands it well, attacking the strikezone. Good spin on 11-5 curveball, in the mid 70’s with depth and bite. Nice arm speed on change as well. Works quickly, and has a good idea of how to pitch. High level prospect on the mound."

Mike Sez (via Kendall): I've never trusted arms from Northern Virginia --- something about them coming down to UVA, they never seem to completely pan out. Shane Halley (Lake Braddock) could have been better. Slow-developing career. Ashooh (Centreville) hasn't done anything as a Hoo. Whit Mayberry appears to be the exception to this, but jury's out. The brand of baseball in Northern Virginia is just not as good as what you see in Richmond/757, so you get kids with inflated stats who were more coddled coming up (wealthy families, etc.) The state champion is NEVER from NOVA, the players just aren't as tough/gritty/good. With that being said, Sborz sounds like he might be pretty good. Let's hope he bucks the trend of mediocrity from those NOVA pitchers.

Washington-Lee HS Coach Doug Grove Sez: Sborz is the All-Met Player of the Year. We faced him last year. Throws 92-94 with a devastating breaking pitch.

College baseball scouting guru John Lezzi Sez: "Josh Sborz is a hard throwing RHP in the 90-92 MPH range, CB 74-76, CH 76-78. Smooth motion and a high leg kick, keeps his body tight. He throws 90 which immediately makes him draft-able but I think he can get even more velocity if he uses his legs more. He is another power arm that can come in and compete for a weekend spot right away. Played for the Canes Baseball organization. He is the #123 player in the country.

Kendall Sez: Along with Kirby and Lewicki, we'll need a third weekend starter.  That could be Whit Mayberry, returning from Tommy John surgery.  It could be Kyle Crockett.  Or it could be Josh Sborz.  Don't rule the freshman out, though Mike's observations about pitchers from Northern Virginia does give me some pause.


Scott Williams
Scott Williams, C -- 6-2, 195 / R-R / Conestoga, Berwyn PA:
"Tall angular build, some present strength with room for more. Very easy and loose actions behind the plate, plus raw arm strength, clean easy release, very accurate arm, 1.93 best pop but looks much faster, receives cleanly, can improve blocking skills. Right handed hitter, tall stance, loose and extended swing, moves through contact well, good balance, has some lift to his swing, can drive the gaps. Nice all around talent who projects well."

Mike Sez: "Pop" is the time from when the catcher catches the ball to when the man at second gets it. Pudge is the fastest i've seen and he's around a 1.7 pop time. MLB average is around 1.9 seconds. Scott Williams has a cannon. It will be interesting to see how that changes as he adds weight. If his footwork and glove transfer improve, it will cover that.  His [near MLB average] pop time is 1.93, and that's almost all from his arm.  Once he smoothes out his technique, he will be gunning down runners at 2nd on the regular.

From Rays Colored Glasses: "Williams is a high-upside player, but a player with significant risk. Williams has some nice tools. He has an uppercut swing that he uses to drive balls to the gaps and he has shown some nice raw power. However, his swing is pretty long, yielding strikeouts and pop-ups when he gets under the ball. Between the strikeouts, pop-ups and a lack of line drives, Williams won’t hit for a high average. He’s going to hit for a lot of power to be considered a good hitter. Thus far as a high school player, the power has come on and off. He better glue that switch to the on slot if he wants to be a high draft pick.

Defensively, Williams is very easy in his movements behind the plate, and he has an outstanding arm, able to hit 90 MPH off the mound. His throws are also very accurate. If that was the end of the scouting report, you could book Williams for a top 5 rounds pick. But unfortunately for him, it’s not. Williams needs a lot of work in his transfer from glove to hand on stolen base attempts. His great arm masks his problems in that area. Also, Williams needs to work on blocking balls in the dirt. As a bigger catcher, you have to worry a little bit about his trouble getting down. Williams has some defensive ability, but there are some real reasons for concern.

Evaluation: Williams has talent, but there are some significant questions with him. I think he’s looking like a 10th to 12th round pick, although his senior season in high school could radically change that. A more consistent season could jump Williams into the 5th to 7th round range; more instability could drop him as low as the 20th to 25th round range."


George Ragsdale
George Ragsdale, MIF -- 6-0, 175 / R-R / North Port HS, North Port FL:
"Strong well proportioned athletic build, bigger than listed. Right handed hitter, wide base with limited shift, very strong swing, calm balanced approach, simple and direct swing mechanics, very good bat speed, ball comes off the barrel hard, pull contact with some lift, ball carries well in the air. Big hitting tools with room to keep improving. 7.51 runner, clean infield actions, very soft hands, quick release, throws carry, likely third base in the future."

Mike Sez: Baseball does their running times in a 60 yard dash instead of football's standard 40 yard dash. 60 yards is how far it is to second base from home... if you ran perfect straight lines... and lost no momentum on turns. That being said, the fastest time ever at a Perfect Game camp actually belongs to Virginia's Mitchell Shifflett at 6.11 seconds. Ragsdale's 7.51 is not fast. It's not slow, but it's not game-changing speed. Bottom of the order kind of guy? Keith Werman type?

Kendall Sez: A lot of people are really high on Ragsdale, and I could see him getting some PT as a freshman at 3rd base, when/if Nick Howard is pitching.  Sounds like Ragsdale swings a good bat.


Cameron Tekker, RHP -- 6-3, 185 / R-R / Cuthbertson, Waxhaw NC:
"Nice pitcher's frame good strength potential. Busy multi-piece delivery, hands away from his body, some effort on release. Consistent 90-91 mph fastball, flat running action. Throws both a curveball and change up, curveball shows good depth with hard spin and bite, softer slider spin with occasional depth, tends to slow a bit on change but gets good life on the pitch. Around the plate with all pitches and was effective when mixing it up."


Robbie Coman, C -- 6-0, 205 / R-R / Park Vista, Lake Worth FL:
"C/1B/3B. Strong physical prospect, good hitting tools to work with, present strength, good bat speed, quick hands, aggressive, goes with the pitch well, ball really jumps off the bat, big arm strength behind the plate, quick transfer and release, online throws, soft hands, good receiver, very strong student. Named to Top Prospect Team."


David Rosenberger, LHP -- 6-0, 195 / L-L / Allentown Catholic, Bethlehem PA:
"Rosenberger has an athletic build, good delivery, smooth, arm works well, fastball has life, good pitchability, nice change up, maintains arm speed, good breaking ball, seen him up to 89 mph earlier in the summer."


Trey Oest, RHP -- 6-3, 205 / R-R / Durant HS, Dover FL:
"Solid athletic build, good present strength. Multi-part delivery, deep corkscrew action in back, over the top release point, falls off on release, has deception. Upper 80's fastball, topped at 89 mph, mostly straight. Good bite and spin on 12/6 curveball. Good command from the windup, inconsistent release point from the stretch. Has shown a workable change up in the past."


Joe McCarthy, OF -- 6-3 215 / L-L / Scranton HS, Scranton PA:
"McCarthy has a strong, mature, athletic build. Open stance at the plate, easy quick swing, can hit through ball more, aggressive swing, power potential is obvious and exciting. Solid arm strength in the outfield, good carry on ball, solid actions, outstanding speed for size."


Brandon Waddell, LHP -- 6-2, 155 / L-L / Clear Lake, Houston TX:
"LHP/1B. Long lean build, developing strength. On line delivery, good balance, loose actions, good extension out front, arm works well, finishes cleanly. Fastball to 85 mph, mostly straight, mid 70's slider shows good bite and depth. Throws inside well, has an idea how to pitch. Athletic actions defensively at first base. Smooth left handed swing, lacks strength for bat speed but nice swing, good balance and solid barrel. Very good chance to keep improving with added strength, follow closely. Outstanding student."


Tyler Carrico, RHP -- 5-11, 175 / R-R / James River, Midlothian VA:
"RHP/IF. Athletic build, body projects well. High 3/4 arm slot, clean and easy 2-piece arm action, arm works well, armside run on fastball, tight 12-6 curveball with good late life, will throw even harder with more polish in mechanics. Consistent solid contact at the plate, squares the ball up, gets extension out front, good barrel control. Strong arm in the field, accurate, clean actions, very solid. Outstanding student."

College baseball scouting guru John Lezzi Sez: "Carrico is a RHP that sits in the 86-88 range, good off speeds, fantastic student and a member of the Virginia Cardinals AAU program. Will be one of the many big pitchers on James River this year. A definite college guy that doesn't have much prospects of getting drafted, but he always has wanted to attend UVA. Was offered after a game on Davenport Field in front of O'Connor and committed on the spot. Probably a reliever in college."






That's it for our look at the 2012 recruiting class.

Stay tuned to this space for Part III -- Rosterbations and Expectations.  Coming soon...




June 10, 2012

Wahooze Turns Three!





Three years ago, I started this blog.  571 posts later, and here we are.  I want to thank all of our readers and followers.  It's been a great run, lots of fun, and a much-needed outlet for yours truly.  Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.





June 8, 2012

Virginia Baseball 2013, Part I -- Goodbye and Good Luck!

I've been contemplating this piece for a week already, and even though the MLB just completed the process of churning through the late rounds of its draft, I think we have enough knowledge to proceed.

I don't want to do a detailed autopsy on the 2012 season.  It was what it was -- a campaign of modestly exceeded expectations, ultimately derailed by a late-season lack of quality pitching and postseason slumps for two of our top hitters: Jared King and Derek Fisher.  It was also a season of characteristic Virginia-style elite defense, and a season of a lot - a LOT! - of young players getting playing time.  At its core, it was a rebuilding season.  Some might try to argue that it was a "reloading" season, but we're not quite at that level yet.  It was a rebuilding season.

That's not to say that there weren't great moments of success.  Savor the following, for example:

  • The series sweep of Clemson at a clutch, turn-the-corner point of the season in late March.
  • The series sweep of Miami in Coral Gables in late April.
  • Seven ACC series wins vs. just three ACC series losses, and an 18-12 overall ACC record.  This in a conference that ended up leading the nation in NCAA Tournament 1-seeds and host sites, with five of the 16 total.  (Most prognosticators agreed that the ACC was the best baseball conference this season, with FSU, UNC, NC State, UVA, Miami, GT, and Clemson all qualifying for the postseason.)
  • The masterful 7-0 victory over Florida State in the ACC Tournament.
  • Stephen Bruno's breakout season of .370 hitting with 6 homers and a nice .559 slugging percentage.
  • Colin Harrington's impressive 6-for-10 performance at the ACC Tournament (earning him the nickname "Mr. Greensboro.")
  • Artie Lewicki's emergence as a legit weekend starter, sporting a tidy 3.82 ERA and a solid 50 to 22 K to walk ratio.
  • The 27-11 rally from an 11-8-1 start to 38-17-1 and being chosen as a 1-seed and regional host in the NCAA Tournament.

It was a good season.  Not a great season, but a good one.  (For Virginia Baseball, any season that ends prior to the Super Regionals or College World Series cannot be considered "great."  That's how far this program has ascended.)

A year ago, this is what I said about Virginia Baseball, and it still rings true today:
Like many of my fellow fans, this program has hooked me, violently and right through the cheek. It's a team that plays hard, performs with grit, conducts itself with class, produces professional-level talent, competes with the elite programs in the sport, and simply wins games with an exciting brand of aggressive baseball. It's about pitching and defense and producing runs; it's about giving the fans a team it can really embrace. I love everything about Virginia Baseball right now.
Amen and Hallelujah.  In O'Connor We Trust.

In my humble opinion, Oak is the best coach at UVA,
in any sport... dare I say, ever?

Again, this series of posts is not going to be a lengthy post-mortem on the 2012 season.  Instead, this is a look ahead to 2013, a season in which Virginia should challenge for 40+ wins, a fourth-straight 1-seed and regional hosting privilege, and a trip to at least the NCAA Tournament's second weekend.

Let's do it.


Part I -- Goodbye and Good Luck!

Before we can look ahead, we have to first take a quick moment to tip the cap to the graduating seniors and the draft-eligible juniors.  The Wahooze twist is to consider what it is - exactly - we're losing with these guys.


GRADS

Keith Werman -- Big Werm is the consummate pest, the living embodiment of why on base percentage (Werm: .390) is a so much more worthwhile stat to track than simple batting average (Werm: .274) when you want to try to consider a player's true worth.  Werm brought more to this program than his great bunting, battling onto base, and A+ defense; he brought a scrappy mindset and a grit that will not be replaced.  With that being said, I do look forward to seeing a 2nd baseman who is taller than an oompa-loompa, and a guy who can do some real damage with the stick beyond timely smallball participation.  No slight on Werm, who has been a real joy to watch during his UVA career, but a player like him can only give you so much, and him occupying a starting position comes at the opportunity cost of being able to play a more traditionally effective, productive player.  Case in point, Werm made some fantastic defensive plays at 2nd, but how many line drives got over his head?  Would the extra six inches provided by a 6-footer at that spot help out on those?  My only real wish is that Werm has taught Mitchell Shifflett how to properly lay down a bunt.

Bunts away!  Love ya, Big Werm.

Justin Thompson -- A decent enough relief pitcher in his time at UVA, and his 12 saves in 2012 was certainly a solid number.  But his efforts to close out games could routinely be classified as "adventurous," and that's not a good thing for a player you want to see slam the door on opponents.  I'm not sure who the new closer will be, but I will tell you that I have a hard time seeing much of a drop-off from JT... who was at best simply an average closer by UVA standards.  He provided good leadership in the clubhouse and helped give the team its personality, but squad intangibles evolve quickly and I don't think JT will be leaving a void that is impossible to fill.

Shane Halley -- As a senior, Sugar Shane emerged as one of our two best bullpen arms, mowing down 46 batters in just over 50 innings pitched en route to a sporty 2.15 ERA.  In a statistical anomaly, he led the team in wins, with his 9-2 record.  Of the three graduating seniors, he was the only one drafted, going in the 20th round (613th overall) to the Kansas City Royals.  Werm leaves a hole at 2nd and JT leaves a hole at the closer position, but in my approximation, Halley is the biggest loss of these three guys.  He had a really good season, derailed by that damn oblique injury at the end of the campaign.


DRAFTED, DEFINITELY LEAVING

Branden Kline -- The kid was a real talent, but it was a weird career he just completed here at Virginia.  From the bullpen to closing to starting on Fridays, I never got the feeling that Kline settled into any sort of rhythm for the Hoos.  Which is too bad, because he's really a great talent.  The Orioles made him the 65th overall pick in the draft, and I'm certain the money will be there for him to sign.  He's already hinted pretty strongly that he's leaving, saying:
"I've loved every minute I've been in this institution," Kline said on a conference call Tuesday. "It's great academically, a prestigious school, of course the baseball program is one of the top in the country, and I've met some of my best friends that I'm going to know for the rest of my life here, both on the team and off the team. And the coaching staff is always going to be there for the players that stay or leave."
HERE'S the link to that story, from Jeff White.

Good luck with the Os, Branden!

So what are we losing in Kline?  For one, we're losing arguably our best starting pitcher, and the guy who held down the ace role in the rotation as the Friday night starter for most of the season.  15 starts, 93.2 innings pitched, 94 Ks, 3.56 ERA, 7-3 record.  Not Hultzen numbers, but solid.  Kline's departure leaves a huge gaping hole in the weekend rotation, and whether or not he met expectations during his UVA career, he was undoubtedly a "plus" player for the program.  He didn't always look like an ace this season, but he was generally more answer than question.

Chris Taylor -- I want to be blunt about this: I think CT should stay at UVA.  He didn't have a great season, at the plate (.284 average) or with his glove (19 errors.)  But drafted in the 5th round (161st overall, to the Mariners), he's as good as gone.  I'm not sure where he fits in professional baseball.  He's not good enough defensively for the middle infield, nor is he a good enough hitter for either corner infield spot.  He's a utility player in the pros, and that seems to be his ceiling.  I predict a prolonged period of toiling in the minors, as much as it pains me to say it.  Whereas if he returned to Virginia, he'd have another year starting at shortstop, and an opportunity to build up his defense and hitting for average.  But the money will be there for a 5th rounder, and I think he's gone.  With Taylor leaving, the Hoos are left trying to replace their starting SS.  Worse, we're left trying to replace a truly clutch hitter.


DRAFTED, PROBABLY LEAVING

Stephen Bruno -- He was definitely our best hitter this season, stroking a nice .370 average and blasting a surprising 6 home runs and .559 slugging percentage.  He was decent at 3rd base, but it was his bat that really shined this season.  Bruno had a rough, injury-plagued beginning to his UVA career, but he flexed nuts in 2012.  Drafted in the 7th round (224th overall, to the Cubs), I doubt he returns to UVA, but O'Connor left that door open.  We'll see what happens, but considering the fact that no player chosen within the first 10 rounds of the MLB draft has ever returned to school during O'Connor's tenure, I think it's safe to assume Bruno is gone.  [But maybe not -- he's only a redshirt sophomore, and would be draft-eligible again in 2013 and also 2014, a unique position, and still maintaining contract leverage with his big league club if he does decide to return to school.  Still, I think we have to assume he's gone.]  In Bruno's absence, UVA must replace its starting 3rd baseman, and its best overall hitter... and in my opinion, its best player from the 2012 season.  No small task.



WHO THE HELL KNOWS?

Scott Silverstein -- Poor guy.  As a 2008 recruit, Silverstein was rated higher than Danny Hultzen, but spent most of his first two years at Virginia trying to battle back from two surgeries to repair a torn labrum.  As a redshirt sophomore in 2011, he only pitched 14 innings.  In 2012, he earned a spot in the weekend rotation, starting 15 games.  He was pretty solid at the beginning of the season, but as time churned along, Silverstein became less and less and less effective, like his arm strength slowly deteriorated.  His ill-fated start against Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament (2 innings pitched, 4 hits, 4 earned runs) was his last appearance of the season.  He didn't see action at any point during the Charlottesville regional, definitely a bad sign... especially when you consider that Sugar Shane got the start against Oklahoma, chest injury and all.  Now a UVA graduate, Silverstein still has a season of eligibility remaining, but does he want to come back and try to grind through the battle for playing time?  Does the coaching staff even want him back?  He's a lefty, but the state of his shoulder prevents him from being much of a bullpen option -- either he warms up and pitches, or he warms up, cools down, and is lost for the next two or three days.  There's no bounce-back in his arm, and there's not much juice in there, either.  I feel bad for Bagel, but whether he returns or not, I don't think he'll figure very prominently in the plans for 2013.



That concludes Part I.  Coming soon: Part II -- Hello, Nice to Meet You

Crazy-Early Point Spreads...

...for all 12 UVA football games, courtesy of Beyond the Bets:

Tap it HERE for the entire list.


9/1 -- Richmond at Virginia (-28.5)
We'll win this game, but Richmond is a quality FCS outfit and I don't see us beating them by 4+ touchdowns.  Maybe something to the effect of 38-14, but this spread is too high.  I'm betting Richmond and taking the points in this one.

9/8 -- Penn State at Virginia (-2.5)
Wow, we're favored against the Nits?  I know they have to replace a lot, will be playing under a dark cloud, and will be in just their second game under the new coaching staff...  But, wow.  In my gut, I think we'll win this game.  Calling it 20-17, so I guess I'm taking Virginia and laying the points.  Wow.

9/15 -- Virginia at Georgia Tech (-9)
Yeah, the revenge-minded Wreck is going to be eager to crush us in Atlanta.  However, I think we have the recipe for hanging with them now, and that's as easy as attacking Al Groh's so-so defense off tackle, controlling the ball, and limiting possessions for the triple option.  I agree with Beyond the Bets' point spread here, but I am taking Virginia and the points in this one.  Not sure if we'll win the game against GT, but I am confident we'll at least be within a score at the end of the game.  Let's say 24-20, GT.

9/22 -- Virginia at TCU (-13.5)
Feels about right.  It's really difficult to see us going to Forth Worth and beating the Frogs, especially just seven days after dealing with all of those cut blocks GT will throw at us.  No matter how much turmoil TCU has seen this offseason, it's still a quality team and program, at least a notch above where we are right now on the college football totem pole.  In this one, I'm taking the Frogs to beat the spread.  TCU 31, UVA 14.

9/29 -- Louisiana Tech at Virginia (-6)
Casual fans won't realize it, but this is a dangerous game.  Just like - in fact, almost identical to - the Southern Miss game last year.  LT will give us a tough test in front of a lethargic home crowd.  I think we'll ultimately beat this spread, but just barely.  30-23, Virginia.

10/6 -- Virginia (-6) at Duke
I never like facing a home underdog, but that's what Beyond the Bets predicts here, and that's about what I see unfolding as well.  Wishing and hoping we're beyond the point of having to worry about beating Duke, but common sense would say take nothing for granted with Virginia Football.  We lost in Durham in 2010, 55-48.  I don't see the same kind of shootout happening in this game, but Duke knows how to air it out and our team's weak point figures to be the secondary, so you never know.  I think we'll be able to pound them on the ground and eek out the win, but I'm taking Duke to cover.  UVA 31, Duke 26.

10/13 -- Maryland at Virginia (-8.5)
I think Mike London fully understands how important the DC-Metro area is for recruiting, and I also think he understands what it takes to stomp on a rival when they're down.  We crush the Terps at home in front of a spirited audience.  Take the Hoos all day in this one.  35-10, Virginia.

10/20 -- Wake Forest at Virginia (-6)
Pshew, this one makes me nervous.  Wake is an opponent that our fans don't normally get very amped about playing, and it's a team we often come out looking flat against.  Do I think we can beat Wake Forest?  Of course I do!  Do I think we will, given the organic ebb and flow of the season?  Ehhh... not sure about that one.  For purposes of this exercise, I'm picking Wake to cover this 6-point spread.  Call it 21-20, UVA.

11/3 -- Virginia at North Carolina State (-9)
The Wolfpack has our number, folks.  However, I like this game coming off the bye week, and I like that we'll have similar talent levels on the field.  Not saying we'll get it done, but I do like our chances.  That said, I think we go 1-1 in the two-game stretch against Wake and State, so since I picked us to beat Wake, gotta go with a loss here.  We beat that damn 9-point spread, though.  29-23, NC State.

11/10 -- Miami (FL) at Virginia (-1)
Bold line here, Beyond the Bets.  Bold, and I love it.  Miami continues to be down, and we play confident in our games against them --- we're 4-4 against the Canes since they joined the ACC.  Three of our four losses to Miami have been by 10 points, 8 points, and by 7 points in overtime.  They're one and oly blowout of us occurred in 2009, when we were at our lowest point in the last 25 years.  My point: we play the Hurricanes tough, and DAMN RIGHT we're going to beat them this season.  Great call, Beyond the Bets.  28-24, Hoos.

11/15 -- North Carolina at Virginia (-3)
Yikes.  Short week to prepare for the Tarholes after just playing a tough game against athletically-gifted Miami.  Not an easy five-day turnaround.  However, we're at home that whole time, while UNC has to come here... and they have a short week of their own... and they are coming off a game against cut-blocking Georgia Tech the weekend before this Thursday nighter.  Given that, I like our chances in this game, and I think this line is dead-on perfect.  26-23, Virginia.

11/24 -- Virginia at Virginia Tech (-14)
It's going to happen soon, but not this year.  Not in Lane, and not with Logan Thomas under center.  Sorry guys, but that 38-0 shellacking really resonated with me.  I do, however, think we'll be able to show some improvement by giving the Hokies a competitive game.  We won't beat this spread, but we'll fight harder than we have since 2008's 17-14 loss.  Virginia Tech 34, Virginia 17.


Beyond the Bets is predicting an 8-4 (5-3) record for the Hoos.  That's Sun Bowl / Belk Bowl / Music City Bowl territory.  That would represent a very good "solidifying" season, and would honestly exceed my own expectations for this season, which float somewhere around that 6-7-8 win area.


June 6, 2012

Mike Scott's Future

Welcome to summer everyone. Without any real UVA sports left to talk about (sorry track, but good luck at the NCAAs), we turn to predicting the future. One of those events coming up is the 2012 NBA Draft, which for the first time since 2008 will [hopefully!] have a Wahoo selected in it. And that is of course Mike Scott.


Scott brings a strong all-around game to the table. Scott displayed a very solid outside shooting game to go with what we already knew was a decent inside game. Scott also plays with a ton of energy, exhibited by the amount of effort it took to carry us towards the end of the season. All these intangibles seem to be great for the NBA, so why is Scott only projected to be a mid to late second round pick? Well here's why:

Age
At 24 Mike is one of the oldest players in the draft. Think Brandon Weeden as a comparison for football. The average age in the NBA consistently hovers around 27 years old. Meaning Mike will be a wily old veteran in just 3 seasons. Given that the draft is usually full of 19 to 20 year-olds, this is not a pro for him. You just need to look at the career of Brandon Roy, who was a senior coming into the NBA draft as a warning to all NBA teams about drafting older players with a history of injury.

Over-Polished
This is going to seem stupid, so please just bear with me. Mike is a throwback prospect. He will require very little coaching to develop into his true maximum potential. While this seems perfect for most situations, the landscape of the NBA says otherwise. The number one pick this season is going to be Anthony Davis, an incredibly raw 6-11 bean pole with very little offensive game to speak of. Polish is not valued in the NBA nearly as much as potential. Andre Drummond, who has done absolutely nothing at Connecticut with any consistency, is most likely going to be a top 5 pick, based solely on his potential.  Being over-polished means NBA teams aren't free to develop you as they see fit, and many teams will see that as a low ceiling on your play, and a damning trait for a prospect to possess.
Just on a side note, this is the biggest problem with the NBA in my opinion. Too much value is placed on potential and it produces the shitty basketball we get on a nightly basis.

Tweener-Status
Go ahead and tell me what position Mike Scott projects to in the NBA. He's too small to be a 4, or at least a starting 4. He has a Chris Bosh kind of game, but without the Chris Bosh length. (Kendall compares Mike Scott to Udonis Haslem, which I can see.) But can Scott play the 3? He has the jumper, but I don't really think he has the handle for the wing, nor the athleticism to guard the perimeter. The optimist in me says, well no 3 would be able to defend his post-up game, either! Which is true, Mike would possibly kill them in the post, but NBA-level athletes could cause him problems down low. Mike to me projects as a niche player, who can play a big, power three or a small, stretch four. He needs the right situation to flourish as an NBA role player.


With all that being said there is the right situation out there, I just know it. Mike does bring a ton to the table for an NBA team. Let's look at that for a minute:

Leadership
While the age and experience may hurt Mike's status on the court, off the court it plays huge into his hand. Mike is a solid kid with demonstrated leadership abilities, which is something NBA teams would love to have. He is the kind of player that helps keep teams together. Ask the Heat how much they could use a solid guy off the bench that keeps them going. Mike not only can lead, but he knows how to, which is a huge leg up on some of his younger counterparts. He's also the type of human being you'll never have to worry about -- he'll be a professional in every sense of the word.

Rebounding
Mike hits the boards hard. While his game may have changed a little this year I full expect him to get back to his bread and butter in the NBA, when he is no longer required to be 'the guy' on offense. And that means Mike will get back to attacking the glass and tearing down boards. Especially if he has a chip on his shoulder, Mike has the ability to become a very solid rebounder off the bench.

Motor
Building off the chip on his shoulder mentality from the last factor, Mike should come in extra motivated. If he goes all out to prove himself, it might be scary for teams, especially if that is coming off the bench at you in the 3rd and 4th quarter.


I look for Mike to be taken in the middle part of the second round. I would love to see him go 46th to my beloved train wreck that is the Washington Wizards. He brings a lot to the table for a young team that needs a kick in the pants. I think you look at where Draymond Green is picked as a barometer for where Mike will end up. If Green goes early in the second round then Mike will most likely not be far behind. As Green slips, Mike will slip with him. Those two will be tied together as the solid glue guy, stretch-style 4s. Let's hope someone takes a chance on Mike, because I would love to watch him play some more.


Kendall Sez: Mike Scott is an NBA role player, as he's the kind of guy you can bring in off the bench for pick and roll / pick and pop production; he's never going to be a an NBA starter.  He's a mature kid with a well-rounded, pro-style game, and I think he can forge a career in the NBA.  That being said, fit is literally everything on this one.  For example, I could see Mike Scott playing for 6, 7, 8 years with the Spurs.  I could just as easily see him drafted by the Wizards, never settling into that role tailor-made for his specific skill-set, and eventually schlepping off to play overseas.  It's all about fit.  Mike Scott is positionless, and he won't be a plus defender or a plus low post banger in the pros, but he could be a plus scorer and a serviceable rebounder.  A less athletic Udonis Haslem, all the way.  There's a spot for him in the NBA.  Again, it's all about fit.  So for that reason, it would not be the end of the world to see Mike Scott not be drafted, and instead free to choose which team for which he tries out.